Our Woza Moya volunteer, Lungile Hlangu, alerted us to this case. Ntombifuthi of 6 years, had been sexually abused by many different men and had now stopped talking. She had apparently not spoken for 6 months. Fortunately, at the time, the Children's Rights Centre were doing a workshop in the community with us and we were able to follow their advice.

She was brought to the workshop venue each day and encouraged to interact with the other children present. She was very dirty and we took her back to the Buddhist Retreat Centre for a warm bubble bath. Her step mother gave us permission to keep her with us for a few nights where she began to open up remarkably quickly. Bathing, playing the drum and dancing to music and just having fun in a safe and caring environment had a miraculous effect on her.

The first words she spoke were to ask if she could go to school. We acted on this immediately. Even though it was in the middle of the academic year, the school principal agreed to admit her to Grade 1. After equipping her with the necessary uniform, shoes and tracksuit and paying her school fees, Ntombifuthi was ready for her first day at school!

Ntombifuthi had been living in Durban with her father, Mr Mzobe and her mother, Mr Mzobe's girlfriend, in a men's hostel. Many men were sexually abusing her there. Mr Mzobe's wife lives here in the Chibini community. Mr Mzobe died in Durban as a result of HIV and AIDS. Mrs Mzobe's son, who was also living in Durban was aware of the ongoing sexual abuse and decided to bring Ntombifuthi back to Chibini to stay with his mother. Ntombifuthi's mother was apparently also very ill and drinking heavily and it is commonly believed that she too has passed away now. Mrs Mzobe was not overly enthusiastic about having her husband's girlfriend's child deposited on her doorstep. She already has 9 children to look after - some are her own and others that have been passed on to her. Ntombifuthi was not a welcome addition and was made to work for her keep. Even now she is often seen carrying heavy loads of wood or water on her little head. There were no plans of sending her to school.

Ntombifuthi's story was relayed to a retreatant, Daphne Williams, at the Buddhist Retreat Centre. Daphne's heart opened and she wanted to meet Ntombifuthi immediately. Daphne now visits regularly even though she lives far away, in East London. She has 'adopted' Ntombifuthi as her surrogate child. Daphne's loving care and commitment to Ntombifuthi has been beautiful to watch. Daphne has now drawn all her friends in East London in to uplifting the Mzobe family. She has assisted the Mzobe family in setting up a great vegetable garden, providing them with seeds and gardening tools. She also has plans to get chickens going at the Mzobe homestead. This is a family who are often without food. Daphne frequently talks about how this has been the greatest blessing in her life; encountering Ntombifuthi and the Mzobe family. No doubt the Mzobe family and Ntombifuthi would say the same!